Why I Switched to Drugstore Shampoo and Conditioner

Jul 20, 2020

When I was younger, I tried all of the expensive shampoos — Kerastase, Oribe, Alterna, etc..  All of the money that I spent on designer haircare makes me blush now.  Over the past few years, I’ve been using more drugstore products, and recently switched to a drugstore shampoo and conditioner full time.

Shampoo/conditioner is a great place to save on your beauty routine.  After all, you’re literally washing the product down the drain.  And there are so many brands and formulas that you’re bound to find one that works for your hair type.

I’ve tried several drugstore, bottom shelf brands and Aussie is the one that consistently delivers.  Their 3-Minute Miracle Conditioner has long been my favorite conditioner.  I use a lot of heat on my hair, and it can get pretty dry.  So I use this conditioner everyday, even if I don’t leave it on for the whole 3-minutes.  It keeps my hair smooth and minimizes damage.

I like the deep conditioner so much, that I switched over to the Moist Shampoo as well.  It’s very moisturizing, yet gives decent lift and volume.  To prevent it from building up, which is always a concern with moisturizing shampoos, I switch in the Renpure Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo once or twice per week.

Drugstore shampoo has been a great way to save money during this stressful time.  And it’s really nice to be able to pick up new product at the grocery store or Target, and not have to make a special Sephora or Amazon order to pick up shampoo and conditioner.

Do you use drugstore haircare products?  If so, what brands do you like?

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Beauty, Hairstyles

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  1. LaureN says:

    Been using OGXRenewing Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo & Condition for a few years. They’re sulfate and paraben free and work well for my wavy/curly but fine hair. If you love peppermint they have a great option, too!


  2. kleigh says:

    I’ve been using the Costco / Kirkland moisture shampoo and conditioner for years. It’s been great for my hair, regardless of whether the rumor is true that it’s a white label for Pureology or not. Great value and the big bottles last forever.

    • Meaghan says:

      Another vote for Kirkland shampoo/conditioner. And I LOVE the pump bottle. This may be one of my favorite Costco finds!

      I do keep Living Proof deep conditioner in the shower if I need something extra, but probably only purchase that once a year. My husband often has a bottle of Suave clarifying shampoo, and I use that maybe once a month if I notice buildup.

    • Jenny says:

      Yup, another vote for the Kirkland shampoo and conditioner. I think it’s great. I also use an inexpensive clarifying shampoo once every four or five washes.

    • Kate says:

      Same here! I was buying salon shampoo & conditioner, and then switched to the L’Oreal Pure line mentioned in another comment below, which I also loved (especially for the slightly herbal scents). But the Kirkland lasts so much longer, and my husband and kids use it too, and my hair doesn’t look or feel different, so eventually I just…stopped buying anything else.

    • Molly says:

      Delayed third, esp for the conditioner. Apparently it is private label Pureology.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this! Even though getting my hair cut again feels like a distant dream, I’m already worried about how my stylist will react to my 6+ months of using whatever Herbal Essences products have been on sale at the grocery store (which is the only type of store I’ve gone into since March). I feel like the judgment for using drugstore products is often very real (I still have flashbacks to the first haircut I got after several months of using primarily hotel products while traveling for a campaign and hearing my stylist disdainfully saying “I can tell” when I told her what my shampoo/conditioner routine had been). I don’t know if I’m just self-selecting into a certain personality of stylist, but I’d be interested to know how other drugstore product users balance what they hear in the stylist’s chair vs. saving a bit of money. I truly have been led to believe that I am throwing money down the drain if I use a drugstore brand product on my hair, especially if I’ve had my hair colored, and therefore I exclusively used “professional” products for years (I usually stock up anytime Ulta has a large bottle sale).

    For what it’s worth, my hair currently feels great — although that may be less due to the Herbal Essences, and more because I also haven’t used a blowdryer in several months either 🙂

    • Kim says:

      That’s really interesting. I’ve never had a stylist scoff at my drugstore shampoo/conditioner use, and I’ve visited a range of salons. I wonder what would happen if you tell that same stylist you were using a salon-brand when you go back…would she gush about how great your hair is?

    • Amanda says:

      This is the first time in my life since high school that I haven’t been blow drying and straightening my hair at least five times a week. The difference is incredible – and I’m saving so much time in the mornings!

  4. wendy says:

    Do you have color treated hair at all? I used to use drug store brands when I had my natural hair color 20 years ago. Now that I am blonde all the time, I am a little nervous. I used to be a avid user of the aussie product line – it all smelled amazing.

    Just curious if anyone with color treated hair has used regular brand with success?

    • Anne says:

      Yes – I use the L’orel sulfate free line (ever pure/ever sleek/etc.) and the one for color works just fine! I save my sephora samples (living proof, caviar, briogeo, etc.) for multi day work trips as I don’t usually bring my Dyson and water can be an issue, but on the whole I see virtually no difference, and my color (whole head single process balyage with red tones) doesn’t suffer.
      I will say – I DO strongly prefer fancy creams/gels/finishing products. Much to my dismay my wavy/curly hair loves the Oribe curl creme (sob) so I view drugstore shampoo/conditioner as my high/low solution.

      • ABVV says:

        Same: I’ve used drugstore shampoo/conditioner for years but always return to higher-end styling products. I’ve got a pixie cut, so other than making sure something’s sulfate-free/color-friendly, I just need it to clean my hair and add a little moisture. (At this length regular haircuts mean I don’t have to worry much about accumulated damage.) Right now I’m using Garnier and Pantene moisturizing products, mostly because I like the smell.

        Conversely, I’ve found I get much better results with less product from higher-end brands when it comes to styling products. Living Proof dry shampoo and R&Co dry shampoo really do make second-day (or post work-out) hair viable for me; drugstore dupes haven’t been able to match their absorption powers.

  5. Lia says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POSTING! I just spent way too much money for underwhelming Morrocan Oil shampoo and conditioner. The timing of this post could not be better. I’ll be working from home for a while and given the volatile economy, this is one of the ways I am looking to save on personal expenses.

  6. Jill D says:

    I feel very strongly about the L’Oreal EVerPure line. It’s sulfate free and I switch between the Strong and Anti-Frizz lines.

  7. Ana says:

    I’m definitely a fan of Dove shampoos, conditioners, and dry shampoo, and Love, Beauty and Planet products as “green alternatives” (the Muru Muru and Rose shampoo and conditioner smell amazing). I don’t know if this necessarily accurate but I believe Unilever and P&G and huge conglomerates can definitely throw a lot more absolute (vs relative) money at testing product formulations, and then just add different dyes or perfumes to make “different products” which may be why their efficacy is similar to higher-end products.

    • Anna says:

      I started using the Love, Beauty and Planet lavender conditioner a few months ago and it smells so good and seems to work well (I’ve been using leave in conditioner sprays for years, so not much to compare it to). I mostly wanted something that worked and was paraben free, and this was perfect.

  8. Hannah says:

    Treseme Botanique all the way!

  9. irmck says:

    I use Dove shampoo and conditioner. My husband says it’s the only thing he’s used that doesn’t give him dandruff, and I opted for fewer bottles in the shower. My hair is very happy and soft. (I don’t use heat styling or have colored hair).

    I do also use the Living Proof in shower conditioning treatment if I’m going to be seeing other people.

  10. Sam says:

    I use RenPure’s Tea Tree Lemon Sage shampoo and Keratin + Argan conditioner and have noticed that my fine curly hair doesn’t get nearly as oily between washes anymore. And I can buy at Whole Foods and Target. I also use Whole Foods store brand moisturizing conditioner if the RenPure gets too heavy.

  11. Aar1 says:

    Love this! I’d recommend neutrogena’s anti-residue shampoo once a week to clear out build-up. It’s super effective without a super medicinal scent.

  12. RR says:

    I use drugstore stuff a lot, but haircare is one that never works for me. Oribe Gold Lust is life-changing and worth every penny, but when I can’t use it, I am still too burned by the drugstore brands. Bring on the cheap makeup, but I save my drugstore haircare purchases for my daughters. I think my hair is particularly tempermental.

  13. Jenn S. says:

    +1 for Aussie 3-Minute Miracle. Love the bottle too, really. It isn’t chic, but damn it is convenient. I’m curious about the corresponding shampoo, though; I haven’t tried it.

    I’m finishing up the last of the TIGI Moisture Maniac I had stocked up and hoarded for years, then I’m going back to Tresemme’s moisturizing line. I loved TIGI MM, don’t get me wrong; but when I can buy a gigantic bottle of Tresemme for between 13-15 CENTS, why spend more if it treats my hair fine? At the end of the day,, TIGI MM treats my hair slightly better – but not enough to justify the cost differential.

    For other drugstore hair products, Tresemme makes a decent thermal protectant spray. L’Oreal has a nice thermal prep balm. I like Garnier’s anti-humidity hairspray, too.

    Just like skincare, I’d rather spend my money on the products that stay in place and do work. (So – CeraVe cleanser, but I use Ole or D.E. Vit C serums)

    • Jenn S. says:

      Oh – relevant add for my use case: I have balayage highlights. No color deposited, just lifted and toned. Tresemme does fine for them, though I do use a purple toning shampoo (also an inexpensive one) that does the trick to keep brass in check.

  14. Meg says:

    I have really finicky thick/frizzy curly hair. I’m a huge fan of the Shea Moisture products which I can pretty much find everywhere and also have loved saving money on more expensive DivaCurl, etc. The best thing about it is that my husband and I both use it now so our shower is free of bottle clutter.

    • Lorraine says:

      Cosigned! Fellow fine, curly-haired person here. Shea Moisture was a godsend when I first switched to the curly girl method while I was also in grad school and needed something affordable. I still use it for deep conditioning, but I’ve switched to Not Your Mother’s shampoo (the purple bottle for wavy hair). Co-wash with As I Am coconut wash (Renpure is another great drugstore brand for that). Every 2-3 weeks I use the Neutrogena clarifying shampoo to remove buildup. I actually think the porosity of my hair has improved over time with CGM without laying out for Deva, Ouidad, etc.

  15. Pw says:

    On a recommendation from my stylist at Aveda, I use Love Beauty and Planet which is sulfate-free and available at Target. Great value and no complaints after a year or so of use.

  16. Kathryn W says:

    After a few years of using bumble & bumble’s Hairdresser’s Invisible oil, I switched to Kristin Ess’s The One and haven’t looked back. I just couldn’t pay $30 for that teeny bottle anymore. The One is 1/3 of the price and, if I’m not working out, I can usually go 3 days w/o washing (background: white cis woman with medium-length wavy hair; dry skin). It now comes in liter bottles!

  17. jules says:

    My hair could never tell the difference between expensive luxury hair care and drugstore hair care. (Except fot the 99 cent brands, lol those are horrible)
    Since I can’t seem to see/feel a difference, I’ve been using Tresemme for years with good luck. My mom loves Pantene and my friend swears by the L’oreal sulfate-free line.

  18. Emily says:

    i use Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo – paraben/SLS and all that stuff free and super cheap – plus it really does make your scalp tingle a little which i like.

    • Layla says:

      Yes to Trader Joe’s! In some areas, the Nourish shampoo (not conditioner) is back to being silicone free after a formula change too! No silicones = less buildup.

      • Silver says:

        +1 for TJ’s Nourish shampoo and conditioner. Inexpensive and it works as well on my thick, coarse, kind-of-wavy, kind-of-not hair as any of the expensive salon brands, Neutral scent, phthlate and paraben-free, and safe for color-treated hair. I’ve been using it for years.

    • AbI says:

      +1 to the Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle.

      • Katie says:

        Agreed – I’m using it now. I have a pixie, so accumulated damage isn’t really a thing, and I don’t use much heat on it (blow drying only takes a minute or two), so when I cut my hair short, I used up the last of my fancy Sephora stuff and went to Trader Joe’s. Once in a while I’ll do an Olaplex treatment (mostly because I still have a bottle around), but don’t think I’ll be spending top dollar on hair products anymore.

  19. Rachel says:

    I’ve always been modest (cheap?) in my hair products, but especially shampoo and conditioner. I really like Pantene but I’ve noticed no real difference when I use Sauve’s fancier lines. As Abra notes, it all ends up down the drain. If only it actually gave me the volume promised on the label.

  20. Annie says:

    Not sure if this counts as drugstore, but I love the Kristin Ess Signature shampoo and condition at Target. I get the 30+ oz pump bottles for $20. I used to get the Kirkland pump bottles several people mentioned, but felt like my hair was a bit greasy but don’t find that with these. I love the smell, but it is noticeable while you’re sudsing up.

    • sab says:

      +1 to Kristen Ess. Works great on my har (lots of fine texture, straight, natural color hair). My stylist always comments on how shiny and healthy it is. I use the Aussie 3 minute miracle as a weekly deep condtioner since I heat style daily.

    • CM says:

      I use so many Kristin Ess products! I have wavy/curly hair and use her Clarifying shampoo, Micellar shampoo, and Purple Shampoo on rotation, and her Shine Enhancing Conditioner daily or Curl Mask occasionally. If I blow-dry my hair straight, I use the Blow Dry Spray after the Leave-In. If I do my hair curly, I use the Leave-In then the Curl Cream and Gel. I’ve tried everything and though I liked Oribe a lot it wasn’t that much better than KE considering the price difference! I used Aussie all through high school and college and I just can’t deal with that scent anymore. It’s too overpowering. That said, I have used their mousse in a pinch for my curls with good results.

  21. Lisa says:

    I gave up on expensive shampoo years ago (the shampoo I got from Prose was particularly disastrous). I’ve been using Herbal Essences Body Envy shampoo/conditioner for years and am very pleased. It’s cheap, smells amazing, and keeps my hair hydrated and soft without weighing it down.

  22. Kelsey says:

    For years, I used the Tresemme reverse system (conditioner first, followed by shampoo) which was perfect for my fine, but thick hair. I loved the product and the price tag! Unfortunately, it is really difficult to find now, so I’m constantly searching for an alternative. Would love to hear if anyone has had luck with drugstore volumizing products for fine hair.

  23. evelyn says:

    I use the Kirkland brand from Costco. It uses natural ingredients, is better value than drugstore brands and detangles my poor pandemic mane.

  24. Pam says:

    I too am a fan of the Aussie three minute miracle. It’s great for my dry hair. I discovered it because every time I hugged my sister her hair smelled amazing! When I asked she told me that was her secret.

  25. Anna c says:

    I used OGX for a long time, and recently switched to Aveeno. I can’t use Aveeno facial products, but I’ve been loving their shampoo/conditioner. I have really fine, wavy hair, so my biggest issue is volume. Abra’s hair washing tips have been a major game changer, along with sulfate free shampoo and using minimal conditioner. I do have a hair stylist friend who disparages a lot of drugstore shampoos, but I’ve been happy with OGX and Aveeno. I tried Loreal Pure, but it really didn’t work on my hair

    My only other issue is needing products that are not strongly scented as my boyfriend has a lot of allergies, and has ended up with hives from things I’ve used in the past.

  26. Sarah says:

    I love the hair mask from trader Joe’s! It’s coconut and Shea oil.

  27. Amelia Bedelia says:

    I have ridiculously oily hair. I’m trying to wait three days between washes during the shut down – to “train” my hair not to be so oily – but it is bad by the end of the second day.

    any recommendations for drugstore shampoo for me???

    • Mary says:

      Depending on where you live (I’m in DC), your water may to be blame. I switched to a hard water shampoo (Ion brand purifying solutions) and my hair improved drastically.

  28. LawyerAnon says:

    I have fine, wavy hair and Aveeno shampoo/conditioner has been fantastic. The rosewater for sensitive scalps and the cotton blend light moisture work best for me.

  29. Annie says:

    I picked up Kristin Ess shampoo & conditioner at Target when my Purology ran out in April and was pleasantly surprised! About two months ago when TJ Maxx reopened I discovered they sell Purology, Drybar, R+Co, Fekkai, and more for under $10 a bottle so I purchased there. It may be close to expiration date but shampoo seems like a a pretty low-risk purchase.

  30. Lea says:

    Has anybody seen bar shampoo at their drugstore? I’m a convert to the Lush ones but I would gladly try another brand.

    • Tea says:

      Hi, Ulta sells kitsch and they have decent shampoo and conditioner bars for around $14 -$15. I have tried a few shampoo bars from lush and really enjoyed them but the closest store is 40 minutes away and I hate paying for shipping so I get my hair care at my local Ulta. I enjoy kitsch and switch between the rice water bars by them and Kristin ess extra gentle( love the way this one smells). I just recently found out Costco sells that one in a big size too.

  31. RAchael says:

    I’ve recently tried several from the Kristin Ess line at Target and have been blown away, especially their air dry hair products. Otherwise, I buy most from Sally Beauty’s in-house brand Ion and have been very happy, especially the volumizing line!

  32. Melissa says:

    I picked up my kids’ The Honest Company shampoo and conditioner one day when I was out, and I haven’t looked back. I like the orange and vanilla everyday gentle shampoo and conditioner. Sometimes I just use the conditioner as a cleanser.

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